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Interfood: Robotics improve food safety

10 July 2012

In meat processing, hygiene is an important issue and significant efforts are made from all sides to continuously increase food safety. Adopting automation technologies which reduce the need for handling of meat and therefore the potential for contamination is a significant contributor to this.

In fact, food processing machines are now equipped with technologies that, even in long processing lines, leave little opportunity for the development of pathogenic agents. The use of robotics has also considerably increased safety, including pick-and-place-robotics which open up new possibilities in terms of sorting and designing portions and feeding them into packs.

With higher in-line volumes, the requirement increases for loading solutions and Weber slicers offer a number of loading options, including speed loading. This offers efficient and automatic infeeding of portions which is not only faster but also more hygienic. This option is designed to build-up die formats, buffer out slicer reload times and enable loading into thermoforming equipment.

Robotics are also increasingly a feature in high volume slicing applications. With the Weber Pick Robot (WPR) portions are visually spotted prior to loading so regardless of whether the portion has twisted slightly or moved through transport, the picker picks the portion in its actual position and then delivers and loads to the fixed position of the packaging machine, removing the need for manual repositioning.

The picker can also rotate the portion through 90° so that a packaging machine which has a pack orientation that differs to that of the slicer can still be loaded, a common occurrence in bacon slicing, for example.

On its way from the slicer to the packaging machine, the unprocessed log or product goes through a number of critical points where contact from the operator with the product is possible: during product loading of the slicer, during weight and position correction of the portion and during in-feeding into the packaging tray. Increasingly automation of the process is being introduced to remove the need for this contact.

The WPR drastically reduces the necessity for manual intervention in the process, improving hygiene but also offering increased economic efficiencies and the capability to introduce completely new forms of portion design.

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